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There are plenty of atheists out there who choose to take their children to a church for a number of reasons: It sounds like the “right” thing to do, they want to raise their children with good morals (as if religion is the only route to doing that), their spouse wants to go to church and they don’t feel like arguing about it, etc.
Phil Ferguson used to be one of those fathers who took his kids to church despite being a closeted atheist. At least there’s a happy ending to his story:

I thought that it would be nice for [my kids] to know about religion and never thought that it would take over their minds. Everyone told them that the crazy was true and I kept silent. I was an atheist raising fundamentalist kids. Just a few short years after I stopped pretending they have both come out as atheists.

There are cases (and Phil highlights one of them) where the kids have already drank the Kool-Aid and it’s too late to do anything about it.
So how do you avoid that fate? How do you make sure your kids grow up free of religion — without “indoctrinating them into atheism” the same way preachers do with Christianity?


Phil offers 11 suggestions:

8 ) Encourage the kids to ask questions — lots of questions. This can take some practice but you can do it. Use the Socratic Method to help them explore their thoughts. They must learn that their views will need to stand up to questions — if not then they may want to change them to reflect new information. As my kids were growing up we would often talk about TV commercials. I helped them question how the commercials were trying to get them to want something. The commercials would use music and emotion to control their thoughts and actions — just like church.

All 11 ideas are good ones. In essence, expose your kids to the tricks and tools that religious people use to convince you they’re right. Once your kids have seen those tricks used in other ways, they’ll start applying their knowledge to what they hear in church (or through their friends).
Would you add anything to Phil’s list?

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.